The Age

Breast cancer: abortion's hidden peril

The Age (Melbourne)
Thursday 12 April 2001

If 27 out of 34 mechanics had raised serious doubts about the safety of the brakes on your car, would you let your daughter drive the car? Twenty-seven out of 34 studies worldwide have shown a 30 per cent to 50 per cent increased risk of breast cancer after induced abortion.

Does the Australian Reproductive Health Alliance, which complains about President George W. Bush's refusal to fund abortions through overseas aid, want to unleash the same increasing level of breast cancer in developing countries as is now evident in the developed world?

The abortion-breast cancer hypothesis is now to be tested in a North Dakota court, where a woman is suing an abortion clinic for false advertising in a leaflet that claimed there was no link.

Thirty years after the de facto legalisation of abortion in Australia with the Menhennitt (Victoria, 1969) and Levine (NSW, 1971) rulings, the appalling consequences are becoming evident, with a 40 per cent increase in the incidence of breast cancer between 1987 and 1997 - while other cancers have declined. Medical experts cannot explain the rise. Reluctance to imperil the status of abortion as a "safe" procedure is apparent, because the abortion industry is worth $1 billion a year.

Women should ask whom they can trust: those who make money out of abortion or those who spend their own money on pregnancy support services.

The only study on Australian women shows that abortion is a greater risk factor than a family history of breast cancer. This 1988 finding was concealed for seven years and is still not publicised.

Federal Health Minister Michael Wooldridge and Victoria's Chief Health Officer, John Catford, are among those who claim that the evidence linking abortion and breast cancer is inconclusive - while failing to explain the rise in incidence.

Typical is the handout to clinicians at Peter MacCallum hospital by Robert Burton, director of the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, which states: "Current epidemiological evidence does not allow any definitive statements on the association between breast cancer and spontaneous or induced abortion." The handout argues there is no plausible carcinogenesis in abortion.

There is no carcinogenesis either in early puberty, late menopause, late first birth, obesity or being childless, but these are all accepted as risk factors for breast cancer. What all have in common is greater cumulative exposure to oestrogen. The same factor operates in pregnancy - breast cells multiply but do not stabilise into milk-producing cells until the last few weeks of a full-term pregnancy. After abortion, breast cells are left vulnerable to carcinogenesis. Oestrogen is a tumor promoter.

Professor Burton has since acknowledged that second-trimester abortions and very premature births increase the risk of breast cancer. He wrote: "I regard the (Melbye) study as providing good, but obviously not perfect, data on a lack of risk for breast cancer and an induced first-trimester abortion. You will also note that I do not believe that this lack of risk extends to second-trimester abortions and very premature births."

Acknowledging breast cancer risk in double negatives makes it obscure to the public.

Professor Burton has also admitted that delayed first full-term pregnancy increases the risk of breast cancer.

This leaves health departments with the responsibility of telling pregnant teenagers, hustled off to abortion clinics by distraught parents or boyfriends, that while their pregnancy may be a social problem, it is not a biological one and, carried to term, gives substantial protection against a major killer.

Women cannot give informed consent if they are not told about a risk that 27 out of 34 studies shows does exist. Breast cancer is not a minor side-effect - it is potentially fatal and always mutilating. Several states in the US have mandatory warnings about the increased risk of breast cancer to women presenting for abortion. Australian women deserve no less. They could at least be warned that if they have had an abortion, they need to be extra vigilant about breast examinations and mammograms.

Many risk factors are unavoidable, but women can avoid abortions. Sadly, many continue to suffer, and some die, unnecessarily, while anti-cancer organisations fail to give clear advice that women could reduce their breast cancer risk by carrying their babies to term and breastfeeding them.

Babette Francis is the national and overseas coordinator of the pro-life organisation Endeavour Forum Inc.

Copyright The Age Company Ltd 2001.